Friday, 4 December 2020
Changing the Stigma of Modern Mining
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Changing the Stigma of Modern Mining

Back in 2014, the Bloomberg News Agency ran an article on International Women in Mining (IWIM), an organization aimed at networking and advocacy for women in the mining industry. It talked about the impressive strides in doing away with the “boys club” mentality, building a more updated and inclusive culture in its place.

Some of our readers may be members of IWIM, or may have heard about them through other channels. Either way, we can all be happy that IWIM is thriving – it speaks to the continued evolution of our industry, and exemplifies the fact that with good leadership, negative perceptions can be changed.

But there is still plenty of stigma attached to the mining industry – not only in terms of gender equality and culture, but in key areas like sustainability and community wellbeing. As ecological dangers become clearer to scientists, it seems obvious that mining companies need to be more proactive in addressing stigmas and improving public perception.

 How exactly can this be done?

 One of the keys is not to separate profitability and ethos. Rather, we should look for ways in which ethos drives productivity. Blast initiation technology is a perfect example. One of the most damaging and negative perceptions about modern mining is that companies only care about quarterly balance sheets. They invade nature with recklessness and bravado, throwing explosives at the problem, upsetting nearby communities and doing whatever it takes to maximise profit. As a business operating in a socially linked and complex world, this is hardly the kind of reputation you want to cultivate.

Compare this to an operation that makes full use of next-generation blast initiation technology – not just the hardware, but the applied knowledge behind it. These companies are doing something that’s good ­– or at least better – for the environment and surrounding communities. They’re opening up mines with greater surgical precision, achieving more with fewer blasts and reducing ground vibrations. Better blasting also allows them to haul and crush with greater efficiency, meaning that fewer resources are used in the extraction of vital ore.

And make no mistake – that ore is vital. If you visit the WIM homepage (the American chapter of IWIM), you’ll see a headline that reads: “If it isn’t grown, it has to be mined!” It’s easy to forget that even the most environmentally conscious products being manufactured today, such as solar panels and wind turbines, could not exist without mined ore. The same goes for the digital devices that keep us informed about social issues that are most important to us.

This doesn’t mean that mining companies should be defensive in their approach to the public. It’s true that virtually every human being on the planet relies on mined ore in some way, but negative perceptions are still understandable. The history of mining has not always put the environment first. It has not always looked after people and communities to the best of its ability. For every great success, there has been a failure – sometimes at great cost.

The difference is that we know better today. We have superior technology, and a clearer understanding of our environment. The true leaders of our industry are no longer those who do whatever it takes for short-term gain, but those with a comprehensive vision. That vision should include efficiency, environmental stewardship, equality, and ever-increasing standards of safety. If you want to survive in 21st century mining, being rich in ore is not enough. You have to be rich in ethos – and that means putting actions over words.

 This article originally appeared on www.daveybickford.com

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